Monday, September 29, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation

Chapter 4: Developing Gender Inclusive-Facilitation

This chapter aims at ensuring that a facilitation space makes everyone's identities feel addressed properly in discussion and education. This chapter specifically focuses on "transgender or gender variant" identities. Though these identities do play an important role with binary gender identities, there is an emphasis on making sure that non-binary gender issues are addressed.

The main concept that I learned from this chapter really just put a face on a familiar evil that I have been learning about for a while. Like the author, I too have been grouping transgender and gender variant issues under the umbrella of sexism or cissexism. This chapter used a new term that I don't think that I have ever encountered before which is genderism. Gendersism by definition is the belief or assumption that are only two and can only be two genders. I think that this is a vital distinction from sexism and cissexism because I believe that both of those terms continue to reinforce the belief that there are only two genders. Even for gender queer or non-gender conforming folks we tend to describe their characteristics based on the masculinity to femininity scale. This scale has been helpful for some and has been helpful for the education on people's gender expressions. But, I think in social justice education we neglect to acknowledge that this scale is limiting to the possibility of gender expression and gender identities. The exact thing that I am angered by, Lisa Landerman highlights as the "forced social labeling process." In order to continue making RAPP a more inclusive space I need to keep in mind and remind others to continue to be cognizant of how other's identify and to not necessarily use the skewed systems that have already been constructed to shape their perspectives.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Developing Gender Inclusive Facilitation

Chapter 4

Hi folks. I'm back again. As you can see, this week we read chapter 4, Developing Gender-Inclusive Facilitation. I picked this because it's an area where I'm shaky. When I grew up, you were male or female, and you lived with it. Period, end of statement. If someone had asked to be called ze and zim, they would have been laughed out of the building. So this is an area where my knowledge is shaky. I don't know the definitions to all the words used when having this conversation, and I know I need to learn more. It seemed like this chapter would be the perfect place to start.

It has been brought forcibly home to me over the last few years that people don't always feel like we think they "should." I hope you notice the quotes around the word should. How you feel is entirely for you to own. How I think you feel is something for me to find out. I can ask you questions about how you feel about something, or try to intuit it from your body language. But how you feel is not right nor wrong. It just is. How you ACT on those feelings can be right or wrong for you or for others, but the feelings themselves just are. If you and I feel differently, neither of us is right or wrong. We simply have a difference of opinion. We can talk about the situation, try to compromise our actions based on how we feel, but at the end of the day, those are our feelings and our opinions. And we're ENTITLED to them.

(That was the build up. This is the real what I learned from Chapter 4.) This leaves me in a strange place. I don't know enough about how a trans person feels, because I only know one trans person and that relationship is still fairly new. On the plus side, I do know a couple of things. The first thing is that it's hard to be a trans person in todays world. Some trans people have been traumatized by their treatment at the hands of society at large. People who are trans have been heckeled, pushed, shoved, punched, etc... There are even people who have been murdered for being Trans. So it's a really hard way to be. And how to tell the people that you love? And will they still love you? Will they still want to be your friend/family? What if they don't accept you? What will you do if they refuse to have further contact with you? These are all good questions to ask if you're a trans person. At the base of it, it comes down to doing the work (thinking, reflecting, imagining) and doing what's best for you. To all of those in the thinking stages, try to do the best thing for you. To all those in the initiating phases or coming out phases, good luck. And to all those who decide the best thing for them is to hide it, I wish you the best. It's a difficult decision to make, and I can't imagine having to make it. Some of the quotes in this chapter just made me want to cry. Especially, one student study participant said, "I knew that the office staff were looking at me. They all stopped what they were doing... They tried to be unobtrusive,but I could obviously tell that they had handled my records and they wanted to look at the freak..."1 I could just cry for that person. The transition and surgery are traumatic experiences, even if they take you where you want to go. And to have to go through that after all that work... It's just tough.

Another thing that I think is important is that there is NOTHING wrong with trans people. They are what they are. Male, female, undefined... Whatever they are, that's what they are. They can't help the way they feel. They weren't born wrong or crooked. They don't have a mental or physical illness (despite the DSM IV classifications of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Transvestic Fetishism (TF)2). They weren't born wrong, they don't feel wrong, and they're not the ones that have the problem. WE'RE the ones that have the problem if we can't accept them for who they are. I think this point, that there's nothing wrong with trans people, is very much in the minority. So as facilitators, how do we get the point out that we ALL need to be inclusive? We can, of course, lead by example. And that's just to start. We can also talk honestly about the issues that trans people face in today's world. We can talk honestly about what we know, AND what we don't know. We can ask questions to find out what makes each trans person feel included and safe. These are all things we can do to help ourselves understand and empower those we facilitate who are trans. I feel I'm blessed to know my trans acquaintence. From what I've seen so far, he's an amazing person, and so strong to claim his true feelings. I'm sure it will be a rough road for him, but I'd like to learn as much as I can so I can support him on his journey.

1: The Art of Effective Facilitation page 72.
2: The Art of Effective Facilitation page 70.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Developing and Sustaining Effective Cofacilitation Across Identities

Chapter 6

This chapter had a lot of very important information about establishing a good foundation for cofacilitation. I found this chapter very helpful especially because this is Brice's and my first year working together so it is imperative that we lay a good foundation for the rest of the year. One thing the chapter pointed out is that practicing these things will not only improve the quality of the relationship between Brice and I and how we work together, but also as a model for participants to build relationships within the group.

Two things that I learned the most from this chapter are being able to develop my own social identity to become more confident in group dialogue and being able to work with and around triggers. It is important to develop my own sense and definition of my identity that includes each and every integral part of my being. With that being said, that doesn't mean that I have to stay silent in situations because I am afraid or doing or saying the wrong thing if I am not a person of that identity. This isn't speaking from the perspective of someone else's identity, but speaking up about something because I am trying to educate people on a topic from the perspective of all my identities working together.

I also learned that knowing your cofacilitators' triggers are very important to being able to to be aware of their disposition. Last week, Brice and I actually had a conversation about some of the things that may trigger us. I was happy to find out that some of them were the same, but some of them were different. From this, I feel like I am able to assist him better during dialogue and he is able to assist me. I also know how to not to trigger Brice so that we can continue to build our relationship.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Co-Facilitators Turned Besties ... Just By Learning Who We Are And Being Comfortable Enough To Say So

Being in tune with your co-facilitator is a very intricate part of facilitation. As two people try to mediate a group successfully, you will find that it is better accomplished if the co facilitators have discussed their own experiences and expectations. 

It is important to point out that each facilitator will come to the arena with their own set of ideas ad values. Though yours and theirs may be different, they are both important. One thing that I didn't know was that it can take years and years become comfortable enough let your guard down; even with a co facilitator. I guess I felt this way because we will working together with social justice and that seems like a common ground, right? Well, yes! That is true! But what I said before still stands. We are from two different worlds so we see social justice differently.

Just something to think about. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Navigating Trigger Events

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 was pretty interesting too. It talked about triggering events, and we as facilitators react to them in different ways. Ali and I both have a partial list of triggers that this chapter advocated that we write. I think it will help us both to look at what triggers do to us and for us. It could be helpful to us to look at triggers and what we feel like when we are triggered, because if we know how to identify a triggered state, we can react more calmly and follow our own values better than if we react on the fly.

There was also a really interesting chart in chapter 9. It shows different types of self-talk (self talk is defined as what we say to ourselves) and more productive things we can say instead. So instead of saying something like, "I can't handle this," I could instead say, "If I make a mistake, I can use it as a learning moment," which makes a positive (a learning situation) out of a negative (not being able to handle something). One thing I've learned and learned well from RAPP and my training as a facilitator is that I need to be as positive as I can. Sometimes, things go wrong, and that's okay. We can use what went wrong to teach ourselves to do things better the next time. This can be helpful in all kinds of situations, not just in social justice education. Being positive is something we need to do as humanity. Creating a positive out of a negative can change a person's whole outlook on life. It is, I think, on of the best things we can learn to better ourselves.

Another thing I learned, and found really interesting, is that a triggering event has a series of steps it goes through. It starts with step one, when the stimulus occurs. Then it moves through steps two and three (2: stimulus triggers intrapersonal roots, 3: intrapersonal roots form a lens through which the facilitator makes meaning of what he/she is experiencing) to step four, where the facilitator sometimes realizes he/she has been triggered. This is where the facilitator reacts to the stimulus physically, hence the reason this is really the first chance he or she has to realize they've been triggered. In steps five and six, the facilitator reacts to the stimulus by first being influenced by what they made the stimulus out to be, and then they actually react by saying or doing something. Step seven, the last step, is that the facilitator's reaction may be a trigger for someone else. This is, I think, one of the best reasons to know our triggers ahead of time. If we know immediately that the word "____" triggers us, we can react in more productive ways that are equivalent to our social justice goals. Instead of reacting with anger or fear, we can react with compassion and love instead. In this way, all participants feel respected for what they bring to the table.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: What Ticks You Off?

Everyday, we are faced with so many things that can either make us extremely happy or send us spiraling out of control. Usually, it doesn't take much. What am I babbling about you may ask and I will tell you. Its TRIGGERS! Knowing what triggers you and the people you are around can make all the difference. 

As a future educator, understanding and working through my own triggers will not only help my students but this will also allow me the brain space to realize other peoples triggers while de-escalating an issue and also creating a dialogue that is healthy and conduces learning.

Did you know that there are ways to acknowledge and obliterate triggers? Well, there are and many of them you already know. The most common is is to put your own feelings on the back burner and listen to others. Then, gather up your empathetic feelings and get to the bottom of the issue.

I know this is better said than done but if we all try, each one of us can identify triggers and work through them.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Developing and Sustaining Effective Cofacilitation Across Identities

Chapter 6

Okay, chapter six was pretty interesting. It dealt with how to build the cofacilitation relationship, and how to nurture it. There was a lot of small stuff I didn't know, but there were a few big takeaways too. The first is that this relationship takes a LOT of work to build and nurture. There have to be repeated discussions across multiple identities as you find out which facilitators identify as what, and why. I hope to build and grow my relationship with Ali in the same way the two women who wrote the chapter build theirs.

My second takeaway was that you not only have to accept other people's different opinions, but you have to fully embrace them. You have to try to stand in their shoes and see things from their perspective. It's not enough to listen and understand, you have to try and put yourself in their shoes. This is sometimes hard for me, so it will be a challenge to try and put myself in other peoples' shoes and be there to feel what they feel.

I also took away that this relationship should be a collaboration. We need to work together and hone our facilitator skills together. If one of us needs to work on something, BOTH of us need to work on that something. We can do some little bits and pieces of work separately, but the bulk of it will be done together. It will help us, I think, to be a solid we instead of us being he and I. And we have so much diversity (white, black; woman, man; older, younger).